With each sunrise, Americans from sea to shining sea wake up and enjoy the blessings of freedom and liberty. Thanks to the service and sacrifice of generations of U.S. military veterans, 21st century Americans are able to live and work in a free society with peace and prosperity.

Since the Revolutionary War, our men and women in uniform have answered the call to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. Veterans Day gives Americans the opportunity to pay tribute to these patriots. From 1776 to 2019, our republic endures – protected by the strength of the U.S. military and its service members — and strives to achieve a more perfect union through our system of self-government. Just last month, our brave men and women in uniform took out the world’s highest ranking terrorist leader.

From one generation to the next, veterans have put their lives on the line to defend the blessings of freedom and our way of life.

Iowans share in this legacy of service, including more than 76,000 who served in the Civil War; nearly 115,000 in World War I; more than 225,000 in World War II; another 85,000 in Korea; approximately 115,000 in Vietnam; and 3,000 in the Persian Gulf. Still more have served and are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Military service reflects a noble call to duty that too often is taken for granted or even goes unnoticed. In 2000, Congress passed legislation to document the stories, sacrifice and heroism of these patriots. The Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project seeks to capture firsthand reflections of military service before they are lost.

Just consider the recent revelation that an Iowan is pictured in the iconic World War II photograph at Iwo Jima. Cpl. Harold “Pie” Keller was one of the six U.S. Marines who raised the American flag on Mount Suribachi. The heroism and humility of the small town boy from Brooklyn, Iowa reflect the incredible debt of gratitude our nation owes to the men and women who have served our country in uniform. His death in 1979 at age 57 underscores why the Veterans History Project is an important platform for posterity. It gives veterans and their family members a way to document their service and share their stories so that future generations can learn from their powerful testimony of courage, sacrifice and survival. Freedom isn’t free.

The Veterans History Project is one way to pay it forward for generations yet to come.

Like many Iowans, I am proud of my own family members who have served in the U.S. military. My dad was a World War I army veteran; my older brother served with the U.S. Marines during World War II; my younger brother served overseas in Germany with the U.S. Army; and, my oldest son served overseas in Korea with the U.S. Army. My grandson served in Afghanistan and is currently a recruiter for the Marines.

Tens of thousands of Iowa families have veterans to celebrate every day of the year, especially on Veterans Day. Nothing compares to firsthand accounts of military service and the reflections of those who fought for our freedoms on distant shores and desert sands across the world. Their stories are important threads that can strengthen America’s social fabric and renew appreciation for military service, civic duty and citizenship.

In 2018, my Senate office organized a Veterans History Project Day at the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum in Johnston. We documented 20 veterans’ stories and delivered the interviews and military documents to the Library of Congress. 

This year, my office is hosted its second Veterans History Project Day on Nov. 8 at the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown. With the help of volunteers from Marshalltown Community College, we recorded a dozen interviews with Iowa veterans to help ensure the stories of these local hometown heroes are archived in the annals of American history.

The Library of Congress provides an online kit for Iowans who would like more information and guidelines for interviewing veterans and submitting their stories to add to the collection. I encourage volunteers across Iowa to consider taking advantage of this opportunity to preserve history. Scouting troops, veterans service organizations, civic clubs, professional associations and schools are invited to take part in this national effort. Iowans may check my website to learn more.

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